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Verhoeven: Trendsetting director

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A significant development alongside the establishment of the Production Fund was the founding of the first professional educational institute for film makers, the Netherlands Film Academy in 1958. Early graduates included leading directors such as Nouchka van Brakel, Adriaan Ditvoorst, Pim de la Parra, Paul Verhoeven, Wim Verstappen and Frans Weisz. Paul Verhoeven, in particular, dominated the film world in the 1970s, with productions containing a large amount of nudity and violence that shook ordinary Dutch society. Verhoeven’s candid filming of Jan Wolkers’ erotic novel Turkish Delight in 1974 attracted one in four Dutch people to the cinema, making it the biggest Dutch box office success of all time. Verhoeven’s international breakthrough came with Soldier of Orange, an American-style war adventure which was awarded a Golden Globe. Verhoeven departed for Hollywood where he created such box office hits as Robocop (1986), Total recall (1990) and the extremely successful erotic thriller Basic instinct (1992). Many Dutch film professionals left for Hollywood in Verhoeven’s wake. His regular actors Jeroen Krabbé and Rutger Hauer built up international reputations, while cameramen Jan de Bont and Theo van de Sande created a furore as sought-after directors of photography. De Bont went on to score American hits as director of the action films Speed (1994) and Twister (1996).

Dutch popular cinema, which under Verhoeven’s influence had developed into a form of entertainment in which sex, violence and cynicism featured highly, experienced a few final convulsions after his departure. A combination of the emergence of video rental stores and bad management meant that cinemas fell on hard times and were only able to attract crowds by showing crude satires such as Schatjes (1984) by Ruud van Hemert, and the extremely banal – but unprecedentedly popular – film trilogy about the dysfunctional Flodder family (1986 - 1995) by Dick Maas. The vacuum left by Verhoeven as professional agitator was filled by Theo van Gogh, who achieved his greatest success in the year that the Dutch film industry reached its absolute nadir: with a mere 30,000 visitors, the saucy telephone sex drama 06 was the best-selling Dutch film of 1994. In 2004 this provocative film maker, having directed the filming of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's anti-Islam-pamphlet Submission, was murdered by a Muslim extremist. This tragic event was a cause of great uproar in the Netherlands and beyond.